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The deadline for applications for Maine’s 2007 moose-hunting season is fast approaching (April 2). The application process is far more complicated now than it was in the early 1980s, when hunters sent in a simple card and took their (one) chance in a lottery drawing. Now, sportsmen may submit multiple applications, bid on permits and otherwise participate more creative ways to acquire a moose license. The Maine moose hunt remains one of the most successful of all such hunts, with a success rate well over 80 percent most years. Considering that deer hunters post a 10-percent success rate and bear hunters even less, it’s nothing less than remarkable that 8 of 10 moose hunters will fill their tags in any given season. And, if simply shooting a moose were the fundamental goal, it’s probably safe to say that every hunter has an opportunity to fill his tag each year. It’s only when those seeking an exceptional bull moose enter the picture that the numbers start to stall. Seeing a moose during the fall season is pretty much a sure thing, but it may not be the size (calf) or type (bull) of animal the hunter desires, and so the trigger goes unpulled.
Running the permit process gauntlet can be daunting. There are deadlines, fees (application fees vary by residence and number of chances purchased.
A permit fee of $52 is charged Maine resident applicants or $477 for non-residents) will apply if you are drawn, and the instructions alone for applying for a permit are lengthy and complicated. For best results, log onto the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Web site, www.informe.org/ifw/moosepermit.html, and follow the instructions for moose permit applications.
Once your application has been submitted, think about something else till the lottery drawing held in June. Think about the logistics of such a hunt. Applicants may be assigned a permit in one of a variety of areas, and it pays to become familiar with each area or district well before the season opens. The 2007 moose season will run from Sept. 24-29, 2007, in wildlife management districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, and 19); from Oct. 8-13, 2007, wildlife management districts 1-14, 17, 18, 19, 27, and 28) Applicants may indicate season and WMD preferences, and may check a box if they do not want an antlerless-only permit. Successful applicants will receive either a bull only permit or an antlerless only permit.
Hunt for a Maine moose can be conducted in a variety of ways, but the most popular method is to slowly drive wilderness roads at dawn or dusk and look for moose along the road, along clear-cut edges and near water. It’s easy enough to spot a moose, in fall, and any practiced marksman should be able to make a clean, killing shot at reasonable ranges. The real test of a moose hunter is what happens immediately after the shot, and that’s what separates the carnivores from the clowns! A Maine moose can weight in excess of 1,000 pounds (live weight), and that can be a real handful for a hunter who’s not prepared for what follows.
Most experts agree that the moose must be gutted and cooled immediately after the shot to avoid spoilage, and that is where things start to get dicey. Gutting a deer is child’s play by comparison! A full-grown moose is big (and floppy) enough to become a real hindrance to a lone hunter, and even turning a moose over to begin can be a challenge. For this reason, most hunters bring an axe, 100 feet of rope, a sharp knife, ice and insect-proof meat bags with them. You’re in for a good deal of work once the pictures have been taken, and hunters who aren’t prepared can end up losing as much meat as they bring out.
Well before your hunt, come up with a strategy for transporting your moose out of the woods (within the law, of course!) and for preparing it for the processor. This usually means carrying several large coolers filled with ice and placing the larger cuts (hams, shoulders, neck and ribs) in a cooler as soon as possible after the kill. Keep the meat iced down and well drained to avoid contamination. Get to a butcher shop as soon as possible and fully discuss what you want done with the meat. Moose flesh is delicious if you care for it and prepare it right, but the process begins the instant the animal is down. Take plenty of good, posed photos of the animal because you may never have this opportunity again, and then dig in with your processing chores.
If you plan to have your moose mounted for the wall, it’s important to select and visit a taxidermist before the trip. Find out how he wants the animal handled after the kill, how to skin it, how much skin to leave for excess and when you can expect to see the finished mount. (I have a bear hide being made into a rug that has now taken two full years to finish!) Most taxidermists can have your project finished within a year’s time, but there are exceptions. To be on the safe side, never rush the taxidermist. Push too hard and you’ll end up with a poor job and still have to pay for it!
The odds of anyone getting a second or third moose permit are astronomical, though it does happen. Realistically, you’ll be picked for one Maine Moose Permit in your lifetime, so plan ahead and make the most of this unique hunting opportunity. The fun starts with submission of your permit application – do it soon, do it online if you choose but get it done! There’s a lot to do between now and the end of the season, but time has a way of sneaking up on us. Stay one step ahead of the process and be fully prepared for one of the most exciting and interesting experiences the Maine woods have to offer.
And, if you can’t find a sub-permittee, feel free to give me a call!
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